Body Language

Last week we discussed dialogue and I wanted to take that a step further today. Body language comprises over 50% of what we really say, so it’s crucial to add to dialogue when we write. It reinforces and strengthens our dialogue and characterization so here are some tips and information for different types of body language.

Gestures add a lot of meaning to dialogue. Do your characters talk with their hands? Did she point at him? Slap her hand down? Flip him off? Be mindful that certain gestures have different meanings in different countries.

Facial expressions come through even when the speaker is guarded. Our brains are wired to see and interpret facial gestures so add these to your dialogue. Otherwise your dialogue will be missing a big part of communication.

Touch conveys a lot of different emotions and connections and they add depth to your dialogue and character relationships. Don’t overlook touch.

Posture and how we carry ourselves says a lot about us or what emotional state we are in. Does your character slouch? Lean back in his seat? Stand differently depending on who is around?

Appearance (clothes, hairstyle, accessories, etc.) says plenty about us and our personality. First impressions are strong so don’t forget this aspect of characterization. This is also a good way to add a quirk to a character. Does she wear skirts year round? Does he always wear the color blue? Quirks help bring characters to life.

Actions tell more than just words. What else is your character doing besides talking? Is he running his hands through his hair? Is she playing with the hem of her shirt? Is she slamming dishes around? Use action to show not tell emotions.

Automatic body responses uses show not tell and really immerses the reader in the scene. Blushing, hair standing on end, getting goosebumps, heart pounding, dry mouth, etc. are reactions everyone is familiar with and can relate to. Use them when appropriate.

Body language fleshes out dialogue and is a great way to show not tell emotions and learn about your characters. Don’t just rely on one aspect of body language, fill it out by showing different types of body language. Check out this picture for different gestures you can use. Do you struggle with showing body language in your writing? Let us know in the comments and as always, happy writing!

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5 thoughts on “Body Language

  1. Do I struggle? Sometimes. By which I mean, I don’t pay much attention to it first draft, but when I start second draft I try to incorporate it. The struggle part comes because sometimes I can’t “see” the characters, only “hear” them.

    I do like the clothing part, I’m struggling with that right now, too, because a skirt would be ooh-la-la sexy in this one particular scene, but the character says, “I only wear skirts in the show.” I guess that particular struggle is between me and the character, though. And Garnet will win.

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    1. I have a similar process. When I’m writing, I just write the dialogue in a bare bones matter and go through later adding body language and gestures. I also advocate for skirts because they are far more comfy than pants

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